Reflect: can you think of someone in your past or present life who
offered you genuinely-useful information about themselves and/or about you or your behavior in a way
that didn't upset or offend you? Now think of someone else who offered
you such information in a way that left you feeling badly about yourself and/or
them. What made the difference? Now wonder how others receive the
unconscious and intentional feedback
you've given them...
and receiving personal
feedback are skills that can be intentionally developed over time. This
article proposes guidelines for each of these, based on Lesson-2 basics and
On a scale of one (consistently ineffective)
to ten (consistently effective) - how
effective have you been recently at (a) giving ___ and (b) receiving ___
feedback to/from other people - specially children? Would people who know
you agree with your ratings? Option - ask them with an open
For perspective on designing intentional feedback, let's first
Psychiatrist Milton Erickson was a master communicator. He
observed that we all unconsciously broadcast "subliminal cues" (signals)
about what we currently feel, think, and need, like subtle shifts in eye
contact, skin color and tone, face and body language, and voice
This agrees with the ancient proverb "Words can lie - bodies can't." Our
bodies automatically broadcast clues about our current thoughts,
values, feelings, focus, and needs, whether we wish to or not. Do you
This is a major reason to develop
we do, most of us (e.g. you?) are largely unconscious of the
signals we send and decode all the time. That promotes personal and social
confusion, misunderstandings, wrong assumptions, and ineffective
Our faces, bodies, voices, and words offer clear
evidence of who's in charge of our personality at the moment and
over time - a well-meaning
or our wise resident
A common symptom of false-self dominance is sending
and denying or justifying them. Anyone can learn to decode this evidence
and decide what to do with it.
Implication - to raise the odds that your feedback is
consistently useful, commit to having your
Self (capital "S") consistently
your other talented subselves.
in this nonprofit Web site offers a practical way to do this - "parts
parts work provide an effective way to judge who is controlling other people
now and over time. Assessing this can help you to decide if, how, what,
and when to offer intentional feedback to an adult or child.
Now let's use the definition of effective feedback, and review...
Guidelines for Giving Effective Feedback
Feedback can be impulsive or planned. Until you become proficient,
planned feedback usually has the best chance of benefiting everyone.
Consciously using the guidelines below until they become automatic can raise the odds
that your feedback will feel useful to you and your partners.
These guidelines cover your relationship attitude,
and your feedback motives, timing, style, and focus.
Profiting from these guidelines
requires that you (a) are
by your Self and (a) are proficient at communication
awareness. Are you yet?
1) Mutual Respect
Before giving important feedback, get
clear on your present attitude about you and your partner. If you
"Your dignity, worth,
rights, and needs are
just as important as
(a mutual-respect attitude), go ahead with your feedback.
With this attitude you'll probably (a) maintain a two-person
and (b) automatically
ask if your partner is willing to receive
some constructive feedback from you now.
Giving unrequested feedback often feels disrespectful (right?). It
implies "My need to tell you ___ is more important to me than whether
you want (need) to hear me or not." This 1-up
often hinder or block the receiver's hearing you. This can escalate if you feel offended
at being discounted or ignored when you're "just trying
If you don't have a genuine mutual-respect attitude, defer your feedback - and focus on what's in the way of
it, or lower your feedback expectations. The cause may be...
a well-meaning false self
shame and/or guilts, and/or...
hurt, resentment, anger, dislike, disinterest, and distrust.
If you and/or a partner pretend mutual respect in important situations, your faces (specially
your eyes), words, and voice tones will subliminally signal otherwise,
and shrink communication effectiveness.
Avoid sending confusing double messages by
practicing awareness of your and other people's Respect
the communication skill of
Know Your Feedback
Before giving someone important or risky observations about them,
clearly why you're giving them. What needs are you trying to fill?
empower your partner
via clearer understanding of the effects of their behavior. If this is your main
motive, and they're open to receiving your information now, clear,
feedback can be a priceless gift and a wonderful relationship nutrient! It
leaves them free to react in any way they want;
If they haven't
asked for help, advising them without asking implies
"Iím 1-up: I know more, and am better than you" or "Iím
right, you're wrong." Such an R(espect)-message - specially if covert or
denied - causes hurt, resentment, defensiveness
and/or aggression (yes?)
or righteous advice may
plug your partner's mind and ears fast, raise their
dilute their trust in the intention and value of your feedback
your motive for giving feedback may be...
To solve a personal or
mutual problem. Here, respetctful, concise feedback can lead to problem definition and
mutual solution. Decide clearly if you want some action from your
partner, or are offering observations they
can use as they wish.
ruling subselves may want...
To punish, get revenge,
shame, or cause guilt in your partner. Offering critical
or scornful feedback (like name-calling and sarcasm) in the presence of others is a great way to do these.
to damage your and their self-esteems and erode your relationship.
It can be
specially inviting to do this to younger and
shame-based people who
won't or can't assert themselves. It can be
verbal abuse if the receiver can't avoid it
or protect themselves (like a dependent child). This feedback-motive is usually a symptom of
Or you may
need to give feedback...
partner from a topic or activity you fear. This may work short
term, but will leave them with unmet
needs. It also risks causing her or him to feel
controlled, which breeds
hurt, resentment, distrust, and defensiveness.
Forget the feedback, and explore your
fears - with or without their help.
"Uh, I'm feeling really
uncomfortable about __________________ now.
I need _____________ (from
you). Can you do that?"
Other possible motives (payoffs) for your offering feedback can include...
rejection and abandonment by your partner by being a wonderful / supportive /
nurturing / empathic friend. This is classic
your partner is very needy and/or self-centered (wounded), s/he may enjoy your feedback for awhile. It may do no damage,
but does nothing toward reducing your subselves' anxiety. You may have a stressful relationship mainly based on
are better options!
Or sometimes you may
To ease discomforts in
vs. to empower your partner. If you
focus mainly on your
needs (have a 1-person
the other person will
get an 'I'm 1-up''
Use the Lesson-2 communication
to satisfy your
and their needs - specially respectful
If you offer comments and your
partner gets defensive, angry, sullen, shuts down, or withdraws, it's likely (a) s/he doesn't
trust your motive (why?), (b) you're tending your needs rather than
both of yours, and/or (c) s/he's controlled by a
It can also mean
(d) your timing is off...
Guideline 3) Feedback
Your partner has
asked for feedback or seems receptive to getting it - i.e.
you judge that his or her
is "below their ears,"
s/he's not distracted, and s/he can
hear you now; or...
Your partner has
not asked for feedback, and
you're unsure if s/he wants it or can receive it.
Either way, if you have
any doubt about the other person's willingness or ability to receive - ask!
This can sound like:
"I have some observations on what you just did (or
said). Are you willing to hear them?"
Or more concisely: "Are you
open to some feedback now?"
If you get some version of "No" and resent it, or if you're reluctant to ask first, check your motives
and who's controlling your subselves!
Also: The sooner you give
feedback after your partner's behavior,
the clearer and
more helpful it's apt to be. "Here and now" is usually more
helpful than "there and then." Is that your experience?
Another guideline for giving effective feedback has to do with your...
Give factual, nonjudgmental
descriptions that could be recorded on tape or video,
rather than judgments (good/bad,
right/ wrong, must/mustn't, ...). For example:
We just reviewed four options for giving effective feedback to another
person. Now let's look at...
Options for Receiving Feedback Effectively
You can ask
for feedback from any communication partner - in general, and on your way of
A useful variation of this in important conversations is to ask for
to see if your partner heard you
Be prepared for some version of "No / Not now."
Do you feel that some ways of receiving
feedback are better than others? "Better" relates to filling each
person's needs well enough in a satisfying way. You may have asked for
feedback, agreed to receive it, or neither. In each case,
needs are probably...
to feel self and mutual respect and to...
empathically (vs. intellectually)
understood, and to...
get clear, constructive information
about the effects of your attitudes and behavior. And/or your
ruling subselves need to...
to get helpful information about your
partner and/or something else.
First affirm that your true Self is
you and your partner. If not, focus on that with metatalk. If so, then identify your current
If your partner offers you uninvited or intrusive feedback, you can use
a respectful I-message, like...
"(Name), when you offer me advice
that I didn't ask for, I feel disrespected and irritated. You may
wish to help me, and (not 'but') I need you to check with me
first before offering feedback. Sometimes I just need you to hear
me, not fix me."
receiving welcome feedback, you may repeat the essence of it back
to test your understanding (do a hearing check). This can be specially
useful in volatile situations involving sex; money; health; major
relationship changes, decisions, and losses; and rage, terror, or great
You can help each other give more effective reporting by saying something
"I hear you best when
you..." or "It specially helps me when
when you get clear, respectful, timely, constructive, empowering, information
about yourself. How do you feel about the giver? What happens to your relationship? Your self
and mutual esteem?
What would it be like
if they hadn't given it or if you hadn't asked? Your partners
probably feel they same if your motive is to empower and/or co-operatively problem-solve.
Option - if you get
your needs met in receiving invited feedback, you may ask if your
partner got her or his needs met well enough too.
If you both did, then your exchange was effective!
A final guideline: after you (a) confirm you understand your
partner's feedback and (b) ask if there's more, you can...
thank them for their gift and
intentions, and offer any...
information or explanations you think
are relevant feedback on their feedback), and/or...
the way s/he gave you feedback - e.g. "I really appreciate
your being brief and factual, respectful, not making assumptions,
and keeping comfortable eye contact with me, as you give me
feedback." And you may...
comment on what you're going to do with your partner's information, and/or...
as appropriate, or..
+ + +
We've just reviewed (a) what interpersonal feedback is, (b) typical
needs that cause it, (c) four options that can improve the odds that your
feedback will fill your and your partner's needs, and (d) options for
receiving feedback effectively.
option of using these to improve giving yourself feedback!
Use what you've read now by reflecting or jotting a few notes
- My feedback strengths now are...
- I can Improve my feedback style by...
- I could receive your feedback better if...
- I'd like to get clear, empowering feedback now
- When I consider asking for such feedback, I...
- What I appreciate about the way you give me
more communication success, keep studying and applying
- expand your awareness by reviewing
these ideas about giving and receiving personal advice.
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get
what you needed? If not, what
you need? Who's
these questions - your
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